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I remember when I resided in Florence, the capitol of Tuscany, where I had nothing to fear from the holy inquisition, I had a friendly controversy with an enlightened priest of the church of Rome; I showed him the anti-evangelical doctrines and practices of the church, the immorality of the Cardinals and Popes, of whom we must blush, when we think that such men pretend to bind and to loose our conscience. He said: "all that you say is truth, and as a reply to your arguments, I will read a novel of Bocaccio.”
The contents of the novel are as follows:
A christian had a bosom friend, who was a Jew, the latter was a just and an upright man; but the christian constantly urged his friend to become a christian, the Jew always refused to consent, until one day, he said: "I will go to Rome and see how your Cardinals and Pope act and live; if their life correspond with the doctrine they preach, I will become a christian." The christian instead of rejoicing lost all his hope, for he thought, if he went to Rome and saw, all those corruptions, he never would become a christian, and persuaded him not to go so far, as he might have an opportunity to do it at the place where he was: but all in vain, he undertook the journey, and in a short
time the christian received a letter from his friend, that he had been already baptized. He could not imagine what it was that induced him to take that step, as he knew the integrity of his friend, and the strict morality of his sentiments, and was acquainted with the corruptions of the priests. As soon as his friend returned, he asked him the particulars, who told him, saying: “I saw all the corruptions and abominations which ever an eye can see, and still your religion exists; it must be of God.” Such are the arguments, which the Roman priests use, when the truth is forcibly presented to them. Such are the grounds upon which they build the infallibility of their church.
Let us now recur again to history and reason. If an apostolical succession can confer the privilege of infallibility upon a church, as the church of Rome maintains, the heretics of the third century had the same claim; for Paul of Samosate, was the legitimate Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, he was succeeded by Demetrius, then followed Fabius, then Babilas; Babilas was succeeded by Zebidus, then by Philetus, then Aselpiades, then Serapion, Serapion by Maximin, Theophile, then followed Cornelius, then Hero, then succeeded Ignatio, then Evodius, all of whom have been
legitimate successors of Peter. We may as well say, that in the fifth century [according to the reasonings and pretensions of Rome] all those who embraced the heresy of Nestorius, were under an infallible head, because their heresiarch was a legitimate successor of Sisinus; successor of Attique; of Arsace; of St. Chrisostome; of Nectarius; of Gregory Nazianzeno; and according to the chronicle of Nicefore, Nestorius was the thirty-sixth bishop of those who successively occupied the episcopal chair after the apostle St. Andrew. After such historical grounds, who can receive an apostolical succession as a proof of its infallibility ?
THE APOSTOLICAL DOCTRINES AND NOT THE CHAIR, ARE REQUIRED AS A MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH.
It is true that the fathers often used the arguments of an uninterrupted succession against heretics, but that of doctrine and not of persons. So did Tertulius in his time. So did Optat against the Donatists. St. Augustine against the Manicheans; Pelagiens and the Ariens. Tertulius calls the apostolical succession: “a consangui
nity or an affinity of doctrines.” He uses the following language: “ They [speaking of the heretics] may show a succession of bishops from the beginning of christianity, but cannot show a succession of doctrine in conformity with that of the apostles; the succession of persons is no other proof, except that they are neither apostles nor having been taught by them, have no consanguinity of doctrine with the apostles.”
St. Gregorius Nazianzenus, says:* “ the succession of piety and not of the chair is required, for those who make profession of the same faith are participating in the same chair; the succession of faith being the true succession; the others, who glory in the chair without the truth, have only the
appearance of a true succession.” From these authorities we see that it requires a succession of doctrine of which the church of Rome boasts but cannot show a proof.
St. Hieronimus equally affirms :: 6 the church is not in walls and splendid buildings, but in the true doctrine of Christ. The buildings having been for a space of twenty-five years in the pos
Tertul. de præscript. hæret.
session of heretics, but the true church has been where the true faith was.”
The same we can say, if we look to Germany, Holland and England, that whilst these beautiful edifices, which before the reformation were in the possession of the Roman church, the true church was among the Waldenses and the real followers of the cross. Let Rome cease to boast of the apostolical succession to prove her unlimited power of infallibility, for Nero also was the legitimate successor of Augustus, and still was a tyrant. Manasse succeeded Ezekiel, and was notwithstanding an ungodly king. And finally we will tell Rome, that the Arian bishops have equally succeeded the faithful bishops ; the impious Nestorius was a legitimate successor of St. Andrew in the chair of Constantinople, as well as Pope Gregory the XVI. in the chair of St. Peter. As the dark night which succeeds the splendor of the day; as sickness and death which succeeds health, so is the succession of persons without the truth of the gospel.